My first Europe trip in 2012, I have to say, is the most competitive (kiasu) self planned Europe trip ever ! I did 6 countries, 9 cities, 7 train connections (with a total of 42 hours train time) in 14 days !
6 Countries : Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Italy, Vatican City, and France
9 Cities: Frankfurt, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Venice, Rome, Vatican City, Milan, and Paris
I haven’t travelled like that ever since. Back at that time, I was young and ambitious, overly excited and eager to want to cover as much as I can. Nowadays, when I can take a 2 weeks break, I prefer to do maximum 3 cities.
The 2012 experience was fun, don’t get me wrong. There were just some times when I thought it was a bit too exhaustive, or it felt like we were rushing through the program just to make sure I stay on schedule.
The 12 hours sleeper train from Vienna to Venice was a once in a lifetime experience, and one I prefer not to do again. Let’s just say I didn’t get much sleep that night, worrying about the other persons in my cabin, will my bags be still there in the morning etc.
Anyway, if you are young and energetic, and want to be inspired by my competitive itinerary, read on ! Even if you are thinking this is crazy, I encourage you to use my itinerary as a reference or starting point, and maybe customise it to make it your own !
Day 1 : Frankfurt, Germany
We flew in Frankfurt early morning. Checked in our hotel. In the afternoon, we checked out the Palmengarten (entrance fee 7 EUR). If you love flora, you should visit this, they have quite a good collection of flowers and plants.
Otherwise, I would say Frankfurt is a pretty boring town. It is the financial hub for Germany. Nightlife in Frankfurt is pretty much dead.
#jermeats : Try the Curry wurst (bratwurst with curry sauce), and Kaseplunder (pastry with a dollop of tangy lemon curd in the centre)
We took first morning train from Frankfurt to Berlin (4.5 hours). Checked in Westin Grand Berlin.
In Berlin, we joined the Sandemans New Berlin free walking tour. It is free for real, but they encourage you to tip the guide at the end. The tour was in English, and our guide was very nice and brought us to all the famous landmarks in Berlin, explaining to us the history and stories behind.
We also visited the Museumsinsel (5 museums on an island). Check out my Berlin post for more stories and photos !
On Day 3, we took the last train leaving Berlin to Prague (5 hours), arriving at 2330 hrs.
Day 4 : Prague, Czech Republic
We had only one day planned for Prague, so we decided to take it slow (that is no tours, no museums etc), and just wander around the old town.
Sandemans also offers the New Prague free walking tour if you are interested.
In the evening, we watched the Prague Symphony Orchestra, who performed together with pianist Freddy Kempf on Rachmaninoff 2nd piano concerto, conducted by Zdenek Macal, in the beautiful Smetana hall.
We took the midnight train from Prague to Vienna (6 hours), arriving early morning.
Day 5 : Vienna, Austria
We had Vienna planned as a stopover, i.e. we arrived early morning, and would later catch the 12 hours sleeper train to Venice. This was one part of the plan we regretted.
We arrived Vienna exhausted, stored our baggages away in lockers at the train station. The first thing we did was find a park bench, and took an energiser nap to recharge !
In Vienna, I really love the Schonbrunn palace (summer palace). It is huge ! You really must check this out if you ever stop by Vienna.
Our sleeper train departed Vienna around 2040 hrs, headed towards Venice.
Day 6 & 7 : Venice, Italy
We arrived Venice at about 0830 hrs, at the beautiful Santa Lucia station.
Venice, was the highlight of my 2012 Europe trip. I was just blown away from the moment I stepped off the train station, seeing the canals, bridges, and boats. It was as overcrowded as everyone says it, but you must stay the night (after the day tripper leave), to experience a complete different of sight of Venice.
On Day 7, we took the evening train from Venice to Rome (4 hours), arriving about 1030 hrs.
Day 8 : Rome, Italy
If you have watched Angels & Demons, the film adaption of Dan’s Brown novel of the same name, Rome needs no introduction. Besides the famous and gorgeous landmarks, e.g. Colosseum, Roman forum, Trevi fountain, Pantheon etc., what I enjoyed most in Rome was exploring and finding all the fountains (fontana in Italian), squares (piazza in Italian), and churches that were featured the film !
Tip: Return to the Colosseum at night, it is even more beautiful !
Day 9 : Vatican City
At Vatican City, you want to do the complete package, i.e. climb the 551 steps up St Peter’s Basilica dome for the amazing panorama view, visit the Vatican museum, and also Sistine Chapel for the infamous fresco by Michelangelo.
Day 10 : Milan
We took the first train out of Rome to Milan (3.5 hours). Arriving at Milan, I realised I messed up my hotel booking, i.e. booked the wrong date ! And we also later found out that it is Milan fashion week, which means all hotels would have been fully booked ! Lucky for us, our hotel owner made some calls, and managed to find us a room at another nearby hotel for the same rate we booked ours.
We didn’t do much in Milan. At this point of the travel, we were too exhausted, we just wanted to rest and not be bothered about what to see & eat etc.
We just did some shopping, and met up with my primary school mate (who was coincidentally in Milan) for lunch !
Day 11 & 12 & 13 : Paris, France
From Milan, we took the TGV to Paris (7 hours).
In Paris, we did the usuals, i.e. Champs Elysees, Tour Eiffel, Musee du Louvre, Pont des Arts, Notre Dame de Paris etc.
Day 14 : Berlin, Germany
On Day 14, we flew out of Paris in the morning, to Berlin, only to watch Berlin Philharmoniker performed Beethoven Symphony no. 7.
The next day, we took the first plane out to Frankfurt, and later took our return flight back home to Malaysia.